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Entries in day trip (55)


Happy New Year 2018

2017 is done and we are moving on.  The last 8 days saw us visit local places with the BIL's family. My two nieces made photography fun again for me! 

They would randomly come ask me to take pictures in the studio and make funny face poses!

Our plan was to go to the Golden Gate Bridge vista point. However we were not allowed to enter. It was buses only. So we decided to see the bridge from the other side. There also parking was impossible. So we ended up getting flagged to go further and further away from the bridge and next thing we know, we are at a visitor center and there is a beautiful lagoon and a beach with was within eye sight. It said 0.8 miles one way and a mild hike, so off we went. There was a distinct possibility that the little ones might ask to be "lifted" and carried on the way back, but that did not happen. They walked the entire trail and back.

We spent a good 2 hours there and took pictures!

I should have dressed better though. Caught some virus. The rest of 30th and 31st has been spent drinking cough syrup and sleeping. Finally managed to edit the pictures now.. 

We also had the studio set up in the house.. that meant pictures and pictures and more pictures anytime the kids wanted..

we even switched to a black background to test out some shots..

2018 is going to be a busy year for us. My hope is that we all be in better health next year. 

I had the best year health wise for 2017 but managed to mess it up in the last two days! While it is easy to bias an entire year based on the last few days, I did thoroughly enjoy 2017. 

Thankful to my BIL and family for visiting us over the break. When you have little kids running around the house, it lights up the place! 


Hakone Gardens

We have lived in the bay area for almost 20 years and have known of the existence of Hakone Gardens the entire time. Somehow the motivation to visit this place was not there before. Maybe it was folks telling us it is too small or the ticket price doesn't jusitfy it compared to Filoli etc.. Whatever it be, this is one of those places we simply forgot to visit. (Winchester Mystery house and Hearst castle are two other places we still have not visited).

Given this was a quiet thanksgiving weekend to be spent locally, we decided to visit. We actually had a great time. The weather was perfect and the fall colors made for great photos! 

We did not do a "tea ceremony" but spent 3 hours there and were smiling through and through cracking jokes with family. 

The place is small but amazingly beautiful. Every stone is placed perfectly. 

Here is a slideshow of the pictures in vertical format..

and one in horizontal format..

Strongly recommend this place for timepass if you are in the bay area and have only a few hours. Nice and quiet with some beautiful views of the entire bay area as you walk around the hill on the garden!


Laurel Caverns - a day trip from Pittsburgh

Day 2 of Pittsburgh trip over summer, we started off with a visit to Laurel caverns (not to be confused with Luray caverns in Virginia, which I visited 21 years ago as a young hippie). This one was a family owned local deal. It did not have any stalagtites or stalagmites but was more of a natural cave with two distinct types of rock. One on the walls and one for the ceiling. 

We checked in and went out to have lunch at the picnic tables they had outside. The view from the tables was just amazing! 

Before going into the cave tour which was around 45 minutes, they had a little gem panning area for kids. 

Jr. and the little one had a lot of fun panning for gems.. (they were more like gem stones) and there was an eye chart given to the adults to find what the stone was. 

This was a good way for the adults to get involved, with identifying the stones and realizing "sapphire in the raw" is not what we are used to seeing, or quartzite looks more like a gem as a stone but is worthless, etc. etc.

Then we went through the caves, which was interesting but not exactly breathtaking. They had one amazing display in total darkness where lights come on inside the cave to a classical music piece. 

There are places where the lighting makes you realize how nature works quietly underground to create amazing landscapes!


If you want to experience total darkness with a large group, this is the place to go. 

Apparently there were 2000 plus bats in the cave and they got a virus which makes their nose go white, and now they have less than 70 bats. That was sad to hear. 

We had a lot of fun going through the narrow passageways and it was a good walk through steep slopes. A decent workout! 

The family group had a lot of fun. We had fun cracking jokes and walking back up after the guide had finished. Reminded me of trips around temples in India where we would go in large groups and the fun part was the group dynamics, except this was nature's temple! 

We were on the clock to go to our next destination, so the timing for the tour and lunch was perfectly planned. If you have more time, they do have a tour that takes you into the tunnel, but that one is 4 hours and you need gear (and you will get wet and muddy). 

Definitely recommended this place for a half day trip, if you happen to go that area, with kids!


Oakland Museum of California

This weekend, we got to visit the Oakland Museum of California. We had no idea a place like this existed and were glad it did!

This was a chance to be part of a group tour (lunch included) to be introduced to the museum with the museum docents. It was like a "behind the scenes" tour with some very knowledgeable people. Given Jr. and the Little One's recent rant on "why do we even need to study history", thought it would be a good idea to do this. 

This place really surprised us. Maybe because of the amount of information that we got from the docents.. maybe because we under estimated the amount of "action" that had happened in California over the last 500 years.. we still cannot put our finger on it. 

All we did was explore one eighth of one floor and even less than that of another floor over two hours. It was time for lunch and our drive back. In that two hours we learned a lot.

Here are some pictures of the exhibits.





 There were lots of interactive displays and the kids loved it.

This is the first time we have seen this gas dispenser among so many other firsts.. 

Jr. seems to have this as her signature pose these days, be it posing for Holi colors or Hollywoodland! 

 I was joking with the docent "we must have done something terrible to the grizzlies to have them on our flag" and she laughed. I told her "we cut down every oak tree in the area and call it Oak tree road. Kill every deer and shut off the creek and call it Deer Creek Road, decimate an entire tribe and name the local park after that tribe.." she nodded in approval! 


The second "science" floor had a lot of cool exhibits. But we spent 15 minutes there in the "bee" area. We had a busy weekend with lots of other things going on.. so we had to drive back (Okay, I had to do yoga for the day.. but we did have a lot of other stuff going on with the kids having class etc.)

We are definitely going back to this place to give it the time and attention it deserves. Apparently the third floor is a photo gallery! It was a bummer that I missed it. 

There are a few things learned :

1. The Indian tribes were amazing craftsmen when it came to making things with reeds. They could weave it so tight that they had water bottles made of reed! 

2. San Francisco was really built up with money from the Comstock Silver mining.. not the gold rush as I had thought. 

3. The peace sign actually came from the British and has to do with nuclear disarmament.. for a guy who is big on trivia, had got this one wrong!

4. California was actually named after a black queen Califa who appears in a book written in 1510 in Spain. (see one of the pictures above)! 

5. Paper sons! That should be a post in itself..

Strongly recommend the Oakland museum of California. Amazing displays. Great architecture. Well laid out. Especially with the docents telling us the details, it was wonderful!


Six Flags Discovery - A day trip

For the July 4th weekend, we decided to go on a day trip to Six flags with the cousins. It is 90 minutes away and in all our years of living here, we never visited this theme park.

It is a combination of Sea world, Disney's animal kingdowm and Universal all in one for a third of the price. Granted there are some give and takes for the price but the end result when you have a bunch of kids running around on a sugar high, a great place to spend the day!

We went in as soon as the park opened and stayed there till the park closed. Pretty much on our feet the whole time. Here are some pictures.

There was a seal show. The seals did a good job but the people in the show were too loud and annoying. The volume was too loud. Hope the seals dont hear the same frequencies we do at the same volume!

Then the little dolphin show. It was amazing. There was also another big dolphin show called Drench, but we missed it. The little dolphin show was better than the ones we have seen at Sea World. 

These 4 female dolphins were so synchronized and trained. They did a hoola hoop on their nose, threw a ball up with their "hands" and caught it in their mouth.. amazingly well trained.

Then we moved on to land animals. The tiger show was something we have never seen before. Five bengal tigers, jumping across 10 foot concrete slabs, climbing up 20 feet in one leap.. 

and diving into water and swimming! Have not seen that one before..  

 The butterfly garden was beautiful. Lots of large and small butterflies, well maintained, multiple security guards to make sure folks did not have both doors open to let butterflies out.. it was nicely done!

This one was the size of my palm!

Then we saw "feedom".. a Bald Eagle that was rescued. She posed for pictures a good 50 feet away. Was happy to get this "portrait" of her. Truly majestic and regal! On a good note, the extender and lens are fixed and seem to work okay after the repair.

The highlight though, was the fireworks. In all our life we have watched a lot of new years, disney, 4th of July fireworks. This was the best. Nice seats on a gallery. Very decent crowd. Great view of the fireworks launching pad across the water. The quality of the fireworks was also great. It was very well organized.

Tried  a slo-motion video of the first part of the fireworks on the new iPhone 6 plus. However not sure if it uploads as a slow motion video.. it is on my youtube as a separate video.. 

Was too tired to even take the canon out after the long day.. Sometimes the best camera, is the one you can hold!

Loved this day trip. It was really a pleasant day, less crowded rides, happy kids and parents after being on our feet the entire day. Cannot ask for much more!

Strongly recommended for a day trip!